The General Department of Immigration yesterday reported hundreds of thousands of Chinese nationals left the country after Prime Minister Hun Sen in August issued a directive banning all online and arcade gambling operations.
GDI spokesman General Keo Vanthan yesterday said about 447,000 Chinese nationals left the Kingdom, including those who held long-term visas.
“There were 447,676 [Chinese nationals] who left,” Gen Vanthan said. “It was because of the low [tourist season]…and the online gambling ban in the Kingdom.”
“Most of them left Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville,” he added.
Gen Vanthan noted the Kingdom in the same period received about 323,000 Chinese workers with long-term visas.
When asked about how many Chinese nationals are working and living in the Kingdom, Gen Vanthan declined to comment.
Mr Hun Sen on August 18, issued a directive banning all online and arcade gambling in the Kingdom in a bid to safeguard security and public order.
Mr Hun Sen said some licensed online gambling operations rigged their games and threatened those who are not able to repay their gambling debt.
The ban takes effect today and the authorities have been preparing to conduct inspections on casinos across the Kingdom.
A joint committee made up of officials from the Interior Ministry, National Police and Finance Ministry, yesterday held a meeting in preparation for the crackdown.
The National Police yesterday reported on its website General Neth Savoeun, chief of the National Police, ordered members of the committee to strictly enforce the ban and inspect all casinos in the Kingdom.
It said Interior Minister Sar Kheng and Finance Minister Aun Pornmoniroth told casino owners to respect the directive and shut down their online and arcade gambling operations.
“All kinds of online gambling are to be permanently shut down,” the National Police said. “The government will no longer allow online gambling to operate starting on January 1, 2020.”
It said Gen Savoeun ordered local authorities to work with casino managers to carry out Mr Hun Sen’s directive.
“We encourage all relevant partners to effectively enforce the directive. Avoid hiding your operations because we will take legal action,” the National Police said.
Major General Chuon Narin, chief of Preah Sihanouk provincial police, yesterday said he received an order from Gen Savoeun to crack down on all online and arcade gambling operations in the province, especially in Sihanoukville.
“Most of the casinos have ceased their online gambling operations,” Maj Gen Narin said. “Provincial authorities have received the order to take action.”
According to the Finance Ministry, the number of licenced casinos dropped from 163 in June to 136 this month, while the Interior Ministry’s anti-commercial gambling department reported there are 91 licenced casinos in the Kingdom.
Ros Phearun, deputy director-general of the Finance Ministry’s financial industry department, said on Monday his ministry predicts tax revenue from the casino industry will drop by 12.5 percent because of the ban.
“We seriously weighed the negative and positive impacts [of this ban],” Mr Phearun said. “We will lose revenue from it, but we will earn other benefits such as the reduction of crime.”